Going (Back) To The Dogs

I could not get these hounds out of my head.  They had stopped me in my tracks outside of Christopher Filley’s last week.  That paw of he of sleeker coat, draped casually over the base.  Heavens.

This noble pair had a place of honor in the window Friday as the shops stayed open late.

“Fiske!” said Christopher, “Signed!”  

And with some local provenance, too.  These pups supposedly graced the Busche estate while still a private residence.

It was a lively evening and I hated to turn Christopher into my professor, so I did not admit my lack of knowledge.  I came home to google instead.

J. W. Fiske was a New York company which produced garden ornament, fountains, vases, urns and figures from iron and zinc in the mid to late 19th century.

Fiske did not own their own foundries, so they contracted out much of the actual production of the pieces.  Their work was based on classical forms and often copied historical works.

Seems there was a bit of “inspiration” which flowed both ways.  Some folks borrowed from Fiske; Fiske was inspired by the work of others himself.  Patent schmatent.

Regardless of who borrowed from whom, Fiske was then, and continues to be, regarded as one of the leaders in the field.  Many of Fiske’s pieces are marked with the company name, location, date and often, patent number.

Extensive catalogues were published and can be found on-line.

Interesting.  So, now I know a little bit, a tiny bit more.  Then, today, while going back through my file of vintage tear sheets I ran across this.  (By the way, the file is a higgledy-piggledy mess, one large file with neither rhythm nor reason.  I was searching for the missing page of yesterday’s post in hopes of being able to identify its date.) 

An image from House & Garden, September, 1987, from the Long Island home of decorative painter Richard Lowell Neas.  This dog, with one paw tucked and one out-stretched is paper mache, but so familiar.  Huh.  Funny.

Then, while still looking, I had to stop and flip through an old favorite.  Just one more visit to Albert Hadley’s Connecticut home from House & Garden (also no date as I am hopeless.)  Look, another dog.  Weird.  Could it be Fiske as well?  Unidentified, darn.

And then the flip of a few more pages.  This is a most delightful image of Hadley at the front door.  Notice the faithful friend bottom right.  Clearly, I have no idea if this is a Fiske piece, but he bears a striking resemblance to Christopher’s new acquisitions.
Post script: My editor from Spaces just emailed to tell me that Richard Lowell Neas is from Kansas City.  I knew you’d want to know.
Images of additional Fiske pieces, artnet.com;  Neas photograph by Jacques Dirand; Hadley photographs by one of my favorite interior photographers, Oberto Gili.
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36 thoughts on “Going (Back) To The Dogs

  1. Glad you pointed out what I think is my favorite detail with that first pair – – the paw draping over the base. Always been taken, for some reason, with sculpture that steps out of its setting (or, as actors would say, “breaks the fourth wall”).

  2. Gives new meaning to one’s faithful companion, Fiske Fido. Boy – sure would that be nice to come home to, one of those graceful creatures. My sister is on the last of the days with her old dog, and perhaps this would be the best gift for her. Papier mache is sweet.

  3. I fell for these when you posted them yesterday and wish I had the right outdoor spot so I could do red ribbons for Christmas. So much more charm than the examples that were such a trend the last few years.

    And the papier mache! Love it. Love that vignette too. I’m saving that image.

  4. I kept scrolling slowly so I wouldn’t reach what I had hoped would be the last picture posted… one of Rosie greeting her new friends.

    Maybe next week.

  5. Patricia – those are hard days – wishing your sister luck. I’m sure she’d adore a gift from you as they are usually so personal.

  6. Courtney – They look great with the ribbons, don’t they? The window is genius. I wish my images were a bit better.

  7. I am loving this post (as I do all the others). I have the perfect place for these dear pups on my patio, but not the funds (sigh). I adore them with the large red bows for Christmas, and if I win the lottery I would deck the dogs in flowers wreaths in the summer and pumpkins in the fall. Have a great day!

  8. Your pair of dogs in KC wouldn’t have been painted white originally, or would they? I have in mind a local example, used as mascot to an historic gravestone. It was burnished by time to a lovely verdigris until a well-meaning custodian had it sprayed chocolate.
    Needless to say, with disastrous results!

  9. just yesterday, i discovered your wonderful blog. where have i been? after just a few posts, i was smitten, and subscribed, not just because…incredibly, we live in the same city, but because of your insight, what you choose to write about, and your writing style. another daily read to look forward to.

  10. Oh I adore those dogs with the red ribbons. They look amazing in the window and no need to potty train and deal with teething on your new furniture.


  11. To all who admire the dogs – I’m with you. To everyone who is encouraging me to buy – no can do. I do not know the price tag on these beauties, but am sure it is well outside Blandings range. I’ll have to admire them in Christopher’s window.

  12. Toby – While Fiske did not manufacture the forms themselves, they did finish them. The base of these are iron and the dogs are zinc. From the information I could find it appears that items were offered in a bronze finish or painted white, green, red, granite or blue. So, while it seems unlikely this is original finish, it is possible that they were originally painted white.

    The brown sounds horrific.

  13. of COURSE he’s from KC. we knew that, without knowing that.

    These all remind me of beautiful old homes that I’ve lived in or been in. They’re the cake toppers, that final touch.

    Thanks for the educating post. You don’t see pieces like these in L.A.

  14. i used to have a small boxer pup made from plaster of paris. it had holes in its back and was used to display lollipops (it was a lollipup). i used to tie red ribbons around its neck at christmas.

    can’t wait to see your photo on NYSD!

  15. I adore that pooch pair – I’m always looking for goofy old cast-iron labradors, etc — those two are almost perfect.

    Also, we stayed in KC this weekend on the Plaza for an anniversary treat, and I happened to catch your latest Spaces article while I sipped my Sunday coffee. Wonderful job!

  16. Meg – I CALL ROSIE THE LOLLIPUP! There is a charming series of children’s books by Cynthia Rylant and one of the characters, Mrs. Teaberry, calls her bull dog, Zeke, a lollipup.

  17. So wonderful. I have got to take the time to get out and wander around to these places of such great interest right here in KC!

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